There was one other gift that I gave both of us for Valentine's Day: I dropped cable television service. In our area, we cannot view a television station without cable (or the use of an antenna, which I'm not putting on our roof), so in essence, I canceled television altogether. Now, I realize that this is causing some anxiety in some readers, but let me assure you that we will survive without the idiot box.
We had several reasons for going through with this. For one thing, we really didn't come close to watching most of the channels. We were paying a lot of digital cable from Comcast and, at most, we watched maybe 10 stations on a semi-regular basis. That's a lot of cash for very little in return.
Secondly, most shows come out on DVD pretty quickly, so anything that we might be interested in, we could probably rent soon after it aired. Think of the time saved by not having to schedule regular weekly viewings or setting up the VCR!
Third, Shawn won't be using the service much anyhow while she is in school. Now that I'm working again, I find that I'm using the service less and less. More often, I'm turning on the stereo and getting to reading one of the books that has piled up on my "To Read" shelves.
Making this decision has seemed to provoke interesting reactions from several people close to us. For instance, some people are worried about our finances. Let me assure you, we can afford television; we just don't want to afford it. We'll spend some of the money on other services (such as VoIP phone service at some point) and save some of the rest to eventually go towards landscaping or a vacation or retirement.
Other people seem to be worried about us having the appropriate cultural references - as if only watching the idiot box will provide those for us. Hey, folks, I got along for years without watching Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Sex in the City, and other programs. In fact, when I have watched them, I find most of what I see to be a huge disappointment - sort of like wasting my time and money seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Bottom line is that this, along with some other changes, is just a personal choice for us. I don't look down on people who choose to watch television often. I expect the same respect in return and want to assure folks that there's nothing to fear by a black screen. The cable will be turned off this coming week - on the 22nd.
Calling Comcast to cancel my subscription was an amusing exercise. Clearly, the young man who answered the phone was not prepared to be dealing with someone who was willing, in fact - looked forward, to live without television. The conversation went something like this:
"We could offer you the ability to get the local channels for only
$5/month for 6 months if that would help keep you?"
"No, thank you. I'm not interested."
"But, how will you get your news? What will you do if there's an
emergency?" Andy said, both in wonderment and surprise, along with a
hint of fear in his voice.
"I'll use ancient devices known as a newspaper and a radio."
"Wow, that's hard core."
"I usually prefer hard core over soft core."
"What will you do with yourself without a little television?"
"Read. Take Hikes. Work in the garden. Write. Screw."
"Yea, hard to believe that screwing is more important to me than
television, isn't it?"
Lest you think we're completely mad, keep in mind that we're not throwing out the set. We'll still rent and watch DVDs on occasion and there's always the internet to turn to for what I call "interactive television". Andy, the Comcast kid, also asked me what, during an emergency, would I do if the internet went down and I pointed out to him that television probably wouldn't be of use during such an event either. He had never considered that. We have and we can live with, or rather "without", it.